Saturday, November 2, 2013

Tiki Tata?

Will Tata and his fabulous pistacho polo lead Barca to success??

In 3 days, Barca won two games 4-0. On 19th September they won Ajax at home 4-0 and on 21st September they won against Rayo away 4-0. Every football team fans in the world would be ecstatic with these results and wins, but Barca fans were skeptical. Why? Because they didn't have enough possession. It's like they lost a game. Against Ajax at home they had 55% of the possession and against Rayo, for the 1st time since May 2008, FC Barcelona  had less possession than the opponent. They had 'just' 49% of the possession. At that point Barca had already won the Spanish Supercup against Atletico Madrid and were unbeaten in the league and in the Champions League as well. Still, it didn't seem to be enough for Cules. Is this justified?

"We played the last few years with homegrown coaches, first Pep and then Tito, and maybe we ended up exasperating our style of play to the extent that we found ourselves slaves to that system, that style"  Pique told Gazzetta dello Sport

 What Pique said created another huge wave and drama along with the fans and media. But he had a fair point in it and had the guts to say it out loud. The basic idea of Barcelona what Guardiola bring was to have possession all the time and when they lost it, they had to get the ball back as soon as possible and as high up the field as possible, because he had the idea that when you get the ball back from 30 meters from opponents' goal, you are closer to the goal and easier to attack when you win the ball back from 70 meters from the opponents goal. In theory it's easy, and it worked, it worked fantastically well and they won everything. But in football you always need to evolve. Because when you don't opponents already get used to with your playing style and can hurt you. When Guardiola introduced Messi as a false 9 in 2009 against Real Madrid the whole world was amazed and Real Madrid players and coach didn't know how to response. Do the defenders have to mark him or let him drop deep and create an advantage in midfield? They simply didn't know what to do, it was new for them and it worked in Barcelona. But over the years teams knew how to response to and I personally believe that Mourinho deserves a credit for that. He was the one who finally at the end found out how to stop Barcelona. It's a bit ironic because Mourinho is and has always been a collector and he always wants to collect trophies wherever he goes. But with Real Madrid he did something else. He stopped the dynasty of arguably the greatest team in the history of football. Barcelona had a fantastic record against Real Madrid up till the point when they won at Bernabeu twice in a week in Guardiola's last year (1-3 & 1-2) it was the low point of Mourinho and they went to Camp Nou to play the 2nd leg of the Cup and were 2-0 down at the half time. They went in knowing they had nothing to lose and they played their best football in last 4-5 years. In the end they drew 2-2. Barcelona were almost in panic at the end. But they escaped just and went through. But Real Madrid had the morale win. From that on Barcelona have almost always struggled against Real Madrid with a couple of exceptions. Mourinho finally got it how to stop Barcelona. Why? Because they were the slaves of their own style.  They stopped evolving, especially last year.

"Now that Tata, who comes from outside the club, has arrived, and who shares the same ideas about football, which are based on possession, he is, however, showing us different options."

Tata came to Barca always saying that he won't change the style of Barcelona. He hasn't. But what he does is sharing some new ideas and evolve. Barcelona games reminded more of handball than football, moving the ball from side to side via Xavi & Andres. So what Tata does? He says play more vertical. Mix the game up with possession based play, 10, 20, 30 passes. But also hit them on the break, attack with 3-4 passes, cover the 70 meters with 3 passes and 5 seconds. Barcelona has already scored twice as many goals as Real Madrid on the break. It's not accidental. It's something that Tata has brought to the side. Barcelona has brilliant counter attacking players in Busquets, Cesc, Messi, Alexis and Neymar. So why not used to to their potential?

barca counters 2013/14

Tata made some adjustments against Real Madrid that was 'unlike' Barcelona. He brought Alexis for Cesc and Song for Iniesta. He wanted his team to sit deep and defend on their own half cut cut the space for Real Madrid and hit them on the break. They hit Real Madrid with their own weapon. For Cules it's almost like a philosophical dilemma. Do we give up the possession and win games or do we keep the ball and keep our style and struggle?

"In looking at the evolution of our club under its various coaches, Guardiola was the romantic. His successor, Vilanova, was the professor, the man with ideas whose teaching tenure was cut short. Martino is the pragmatist, the man who will do what it takes." 

 Barca won 3-0 against Celta, but it was different Barca again. Not the Barca who keeps the ball, puts high pressure...It was a Barca team who kept the ball at times but at times also defended deep and let Celta to have the ball, also on their own half. What that means? The same when Barca keeps the ball on opponents half. The other half of the field is empty. And when Barca got the ball from their own half, they played 1 or 2 (long)  passes and they broke the whole Celta defense. They played counter attacking football at times. They mixed it with possession of course, there were times when Barca had the ball for long periods as well, they had around 60% of the possession in this game. But they weren't afraid to be pragmatic, different from the Barca side that were 'slaves' to their style. They weren't afraid to defend deep and hit from the break.

barca tata

Football runs in cycles. There was the Hungarian team in the 50's, the Real Madrid in DI Stefano's era, Brazilin 70's  Sacchi's Milan in 90's, Barca & Spain...At the same time there were different styles along those era's. First the chaos,  German's W-M, English pragmatism, Catenaccio, Total football, Tiki Taka etc...Football goes in cycles and is always evolving. Teams have to adapt.
Tata has played Messi on the right flank a lot this season, also behind #9 and playing a lot deeper, especially after his injury in last 3-4 games.  Barca needs somebody up front to occupy the space and give Barca another dimension. Last 2 seasons Messi has scored over 50% of the whole team goals and when he didn't score any more, the team struggled to find somebody to step up. This season Neymar & Alexis have more freedom and they involve in the goals just as much as Messi. It's better to have 3 strikers who can make the impact, rather than 1.

In this video against Celta you can see that Alexis moved in the middle and Messi on the right flank. They switched positions during the game.

Barça was a team with a #9, which evolved into a team without a #9, and are now evolving into a team that need a 9.

Tata has used Neymar and Alexis up front in the last few games and has said that he wants a pure  #9 to the team soon. Of course it doesn't mean that Messi is going to move into to the right flanks and becomes a pure winger like he was pre 2009. People often say that Barca doesn't have a plan B but they are probably one of the few teams in the world who has more than just a plan A. They have plan A,B,C & D and can easily transform from one style to another during the game like they showed against Real Madrid in 2011 which was a pure masterpiece

Now they need to evolve into a team that is a bit more pragmatic, plays more on the break, defends deeper, have another weapon in a pure #9 and by doing that they also have to keep the style, the Barca style. That's the key.

Would it be Tiki Tata? I finally got the meaning of the term that I used to hate when everybody overused it when he came to Barca.


  1. For me personally it is a dilemma. I couldn't believe my eyes against Real Madrid and Celta de Vigo, Barça defending on their own half? I didn't understand, because I didn't wanted to understand. I'm a Culé all my life and so I am used to totalfootball of Barcelona. I just hope Tata Martino doesn't change Barça into Madrid or Chelsea, because that would be terrible for the club's status, the fans and our imago.

    Amazing AllasFCB, I loved reading this.

    1 last question, Allas, is there a way to contact you by PM or any type of messenger?

    1. You've been a culé your whole life? How short is your life? Barca were not always so magical.

  2. As an idealist, I'm not convinced by Tata yet. What worried me against Madrid was the total lack of pressing in the 2nd half. How sloppy they were in-possession didn't worry me, it was the fact that they looked like they were ceding possession to Madrid. Tata's put my mind to rest slightly by saying it wasn't a planned tactical ploy to stand-off. It might not seem a big deal to most cules (apparently), but that's just not the Barca way. Barca have to always be the protagonists in a game, whether it means taking a risk or not. That's just how it's always been. Just winning isn't, & shouldn't in my opinion, be enough.

    Pep's Barca always evolved as well, & he also made a lot of changes in a game to counter a specific opponent threat. But those changes were always to help maintain dominance, they were never negative.

  3. evolving means changing for the better, not for the worse. barca still hasn't played a game like they played with guardiola with the midfield constantly changing positions and villa and pedro switching flanks and releasing the ball quickly and moving right away. when they do and it doesn't work, then you could say that the style isn't working anymore, but when the team is clearly not even close to the level it showed in those times, you can't say the style is becoming predictable. the team isn't playing the style as properly as before.
    they show great lack of confidence building up whereas before they would make those short space passes confidently and by doing so making the opponent press and build up with triangles, only busquets makes those somewhat risky passes now, he's perhaps one of the very few that kept the good shape. rather than keeping the ball short in the middle like they usually did, now they stretch it out to the full backs or wingers (with a long ball) too soon.
    the change of players in attack also changes the teams's play. alexis is in good form this season but putting pedro in the bench, he who has been in the main team and a big influence in the team's game since the beginning, is a bad decision IF they want to keep the style and quality of their game. neymar is only a help to the team when they don't play well and they need that dribbling to stir the game up as his passing release it too slow to fit the team's quick tempo passing well. villa and pedro didn't have nor did they need the dribbling to play their role perfectly in the team, but i guess when you cost 50M you will eventually play, wheather you fit the team or not. it's like if you had 2 messis in the squad but you played 2 wingers. 1 would play as false 9 but,at least for me, putting the other one as a winger wouldn't make the team play as good as if you put a player like pedro or villa there you know? individually they may be better but they have to play the role as well too.

    1. You can't evolve when you want to play with the same players with the same style. just saying.

    2. when the same players and the same style is about as good as it gets, no need to evolve. an attempt to evolve will only result in regression

    3. only some tweaks should be made in particular games against particular opponents and the manager has a big role in advising the team before and throughout the match. you could see guardiola calling out and talking to players constantly throughout the game and even after scoring to maintain focus and make tactical adjustments. with tito, roura and tata that doesn't apply as much. tito/roura maintained the style and the team thrived in the beginning but the lack of positional/tactical adjustments and tweaks hurt the team in the long run. tata tries to adjust to every game, but the team is swaying away from its style bit by bit. the game vs madrid was good, but mostly because madrid pressed recklesly and allowed for easy triangles, was more of a madrid's bad game rather than barca's good one. back in the day if madrid pressed like that, the result would something like 3-0, or at least, if not 3 or 4 goals scored, enough chances to score them.

  4. Hello.

    I m french and big fan of barca, but my english is so poor. I know translate is a big working, but i would love ^^

  5. I'm happy with what Tata has done for barca, his pragmatic approach is exactly what they need, espially in this era of football.

  6. Barca is losing their style. and the rest (Xavi, Iniesta, Busquet) are losing their form. It rare that you see these guys perform well. And xavi hesitates to give that killer through ball, and that cheeky lobs. Sure the club has adapted to a new form, but the form is intermediate and slow. Have you noticed their passes are getting slow. Not the quick passes they used to have. I say, barca has evolved, but they are not what used to be.

    1. busquets is in top shape wtf are you talking about? his style hasn't changed a bit, still making the risky inbetween opponent's midfielders passes and commanding the defensive midfield building up

    2. I think its a little harsh to say they have lost their form. I agree that they do often lack a killer pass, but the majority of games iniesta has been terrific and far from losing form. Barca has won most of their games which I think is due to their midfielders

  7. What bothers me the most with Tata's approach is not the attacking part of the game, because obviously it is always easier to score when you have more space in front of you, especially if you have fast players like Alexis, Neymar or Pedro. The attacking part of Barca's game will probably become more efficient if they have more space.

    What bothers me is the deffensive part of Barca. This team is not used to sit on their own half and defend for longer periods. I believe the consequence of this was seen in the game against Real Betis last weekend. I didn't check the stats, but Betis had a fair amount of promising chances against Barca, perhaps the same amount as the Catalan team had. So the difference was clearly in the finishing or in the quality of the players if you want.
    But, if Barca were to face an elite team like Bayern with the same aproach as against Betis, then the opponent would probably score from those chances.
    This Barca team in the last 5 years has been defending by keeping the ball, and when loosing it they applied high pressure to win the ball ASAP.
    Many say that Barca's defendig this season is great because they conceded the least amount of goals in La Liga, which is off course true, but this is largly because of Valdes' fantastic form.

    I have faith in Tata. So far he is doing a good job. But in my opinion there are still issues that needs to be adressed. One of them is the amount of chances Barca allows his opponents.

    1. defending wouldn't even be a concern if they knew how to keep the ball and attack well. against betis the problem wasn't high pressing because if they have the ball in your midfield and you wanna press recklesly it happens the same thing that happened last season vs psg where they just 1 2'd the barca players and got easy attacks. the problem was building up when betis pressed high and aggressive. part of that problem is the absence of busquets because song still sucks and cant play that part (just watch the rayo game where they had less possession), and also the team is less dynamic attacking. the players move less without the ball and the ball takes too long to be passed around, allowing the defense to position properly and mark barcelona more easily, but the most important thing is they lost confidence building up. they long ball it when they can short pass it and they take no chances, which for one lowers the chances of losing the ball close to their goal, but that mentality is also what's been killing their game. they need to play in short spaces, otherwise they cant make them triangles as much and they cant even play as well if the opponent presses high.